From Field to Trench

In order to show you how excavations work exactly, we decided to give you an example by case. Because the 2020 campaign just started, this year’s trenches aren’t nearly ready to show the process of excavation from start to finish. Therefore, we decided to show you trench 02 of the 2018 campaign. Trench 02 is part of the bath-complex on the Keber Tepe. More importantly its part of the floor heating system, the so-called hypocaustum.

After deciding where to dig the next trench (more on that in the next post!) the surface area is cleaned from all kinds of plants and bigger stones. Then a first set of pictures will be taken. After that the trench will be excavated successively, layer by layer. After we took away all visible layers, and we can clearly see that we have reached a different situation underneath the layers we have taken away, we designate a new planum. That’s when we will take new photos of the trench and document the process. After which we start to take away the next layer. Below you can see three different stages of trench 02: from left to right planum 1 to 3.

Whenever we take photos of a new planum during excavation we will also draw that same planum while we are still in the field. In these drawings we document where which layer is located and what kind of remains can be seen. Most of these drawings will be done in 1:20 on A3 paper, and depending on the complexity of the trench they can take quite a while. Furthermore, once the trench is completely excavated, we will also draw all the profiles of the trench. In these profile drawings like the one below, we can follow the layers vertically. Based on the profiles we can then decide which layer is older or for example if a pit was dug recently or if it is ancient.

Each layer will be given a designated number and all the finds we make will be sorted corresponding to their layer number. We then describe the layer by colour, inclusions, density and many more factors. All the small-finds will be labelled and send to the excavation house for further processing. Here we analyse all the finds and hope to be able to date the layer based of that. Ceramics and coins are the most valuable finds for this. The first can give a broad time-spectrum, based on the time of usage of that kind of ceramics, while coins are often inscribed with names of emperors or Kings etc. These can then be dated, some more securely than others, based of literary evidences.

As you can see, a big part of excavation is the documentation of our work in various different ways. Generally there is never enough documentation, which stems from the reason that archaeology itself is a very destructive science. By that I mean that once we excavated something, all the layers, finds and everything else above the final layer have been destroyed/taken away. Therefore, it is important to document everything before these layers are gone forever.

But if done in the correct way, we can learn so many things about our history that are normally covered with dust and time…

by Fynn Riepe

A comparison of the Surface and the finished Trench!

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